Review Summary: There's life in the old dog yet...
It's been a while since Placebo have really shone. Meds
featured some of the band's most interesting work marred by some rather uninspired filler material, and Battle For The Sun
was almost cringeworthy in places. That was over three years ago, and whilst it seems a let-down to only have 5 tracks to show for it, surely this means that the few tracks we do get to hear must be something pretty special?
In fact, only four of them are even fully fledged Placebo songs. I Know You Want To Stop
is a Minxus cover (y'know... Minxus
), and quite honestly it's hard to see why it's included here other than as filler. It's not a bad song, the chorus part actually features some nice lead-guitar licks, but it's considerably weaker than the self-penned material and that leaves it feeling more than a little... pointless.
It's rarely a bad thing when the cover song is the worst on the album and the four remaining tracks actually stand up very well. They portray four very different sounds- B3
, uplifting and expansive; The Extra
, stark and melancholic; IKWYL
, dark and sinister; and Time is Money
, slow-building and relaxed. This variety is equalled by the quality, even managing to put in a 7 minute album closer that doesn't drag. The songs feel tight and well-formed, never outliving their welcomes or becoming repetitive.
The guitars, whilst obviously not rivaling the likes of Hendrix, really serve to bring alive the rockers of the group, whether in the huge wall of distortion that lets Brian Molko's voice soar in the title track, or in the shoegazey textures and old school U2-esque lead parts that make IKWYL
that much more immersive before it really explodes. Only Time is Money
suffers a little on this front, offering little more than some fairly standard chord strumming, although Molko's performance and strong overall songwriting do make up for it and it rounds the EP off nicely, if not with a bang.
Whether it was in the overtly bombastic title-track, the ill-advised video game music segués, random handclapping interludes, or the hideous intro to the otherwise decent Julien
, Placebo seemed to have abandoned subtlety on Battle For The Sun
, where the experimental touches that embellished previous albums were inserted by sledgehammers. It's to their credit that they seemed to have regained some self-control, and so the unusual sonic palette and vast layered sounds in the background of The Extra
serve to enhance the mood an already emotive song instead of destroying it with kitschy sound effects or by rendering it overwrought. It's things like this that make it feel like they've really taken time, effort and thought to bring out the best of the songs.
Overall, it still stings a little that we'll have to wait until next year for album number seven. That will have made it ten years since the band last put out something great, and if the rest of the material they've been working on is as strong as some of this, then perhaps this time they have a chance to reclaim some of their old glory. For now, we're left with a mostly-impressive EP that leaves a good feeling in its wake.